Ano Natsu de Matteru – 05 Review
Ano Natsu de Matteru – Episode 05
So, I managed to take my own advice and watch this show simply as a high school romcom/slice-of-life, dropping any and all expectations that the alien stuff is at all relevant to the plot. Watched in this mindset, Episode 05 was great. It’s actually quite easy to do – just convince yourself that Ichika is a an average foreign exchange student and not from outer space. Why not, right? It’s what the rest of the characters in the show seem to think about the situation.
On the first day of summer break, Kai wakes up and immediately proceeds to ogle Ichika’s breasts. He bemoans his constant hard-on for her, and imagines that spending the whole summer living together but not doing dirty things to her might be impossible for him. Poor Kai. Post-breakfast, eyes steadfastly glued to her tits, Kai rambles on to Ichika about the history of his outdated analog camera. There’s a good mood developing between the pair, and Remon walks in just in time to ruin it by poking fun at the two. The rest of the crew arrives and they’re off to the park to start filming the much-hyped movie.
Remon reveals that she will be writing the script on the fly, and that the basic plot (as of today) for the movie is that Ichika is an alien girl who has landed on Earth and meets a human boy. Sound familiar? While discussing the script and the various duties of each crew member, interpersonal tensions abound – Ichika is uncomfortable with the accuracy of the premise, Kanna is jealous that Kai seems to be turned on by Ichika’s black patent leather cat-suit, Kanna therefore makes a bunch of sarcastic comments about Tetsuou playing the lead male role, resulting in both Tetsuou and Mio feeling super uncomfortable. That’s an awful lot of silly drama, but it is done quite well with great acting and just enough subtlety to make it interesting. Remon (who’s loving all this awkwardness) urges them to get down to business. Since there isn’t really a “script” per se, and everyone is just making up lines as they go, things get a little screwy – Ichika’s character ends up killing Tetsuou’s character right off the bat with a laser gun when he reveals that he is a MIB come to apprehend aliens. Whoops.
They all take five while Remon rewrites the script. During this time, Kai and Ichika are having another nice moment discussing Ichika’s “special place”, what they need to pick up at the grocery store later, and generally having a comfy time giggling and playing house. Kanna can’t stand it, and consumed by jealousy, she starts to bitch about it to Tetsuou. He reveals that he’s known all along that Kanna has the hots for Kai (since it’s blatantly obvious to everyone except Kai and Ichika). Flustered, Kanna asks/demands that he support her interest in Kai, promising that she would do the same if their roles were reversed. As Kanna walks off, Tetsuou mumbles that it wouldn’t be possible for Kanna to support his crush, which Mio overhears, to her dismay. Remon has changed the plot to focus on Ichika running from the MIB, casts Rinon (the teletubby) as the “spaceship’s organic terminal”, and recasts the main male lead as Kai. Kai and Ichika act out the same scenarios that they’ve gone through in real life (aka the previous episodes), including the scene in which Kai invites Ichika to stay at his house. After the shoot, Kanna approaches Ichika and starts asking her how she would like to see the movie end, to which Ichika replies that she would enjoy seeing a happy ending between the lovers.
Afterwards, back at the house, Kai is randomly filming Ichika doing nothing due to Remon’s request for him to acquire more footage of “the alien girl getting used to life on Earth.” Ichika asks Kai some loaded questions (although Kai is too dense to realize that the questions might possibly be relevant in any way) – particularly how Kai would respond in real life to finding out that his girl is an alien, and whether or not he would date her anyway. He doesn’t have much of an answer beyond thinking it would be pretty cool and that he wouldn’t mind dating an alien chick as long as, “she doesn’t spit out weird liquid stuff.” Ichika is happy and relieved by his answers and, obviously, blushes profusely.
It begins to rain, and Kanna is at home getting worked up over her jealousy towards Ichika. Full of bitterness, she goes over to Kai’s, pretending that her mother asked her to bring over some food. Kai and Ichika are acting like a couple of normal newlyweds – Ichika’s running around with no pants on (even though no one else seems to notice this) freaking out because the roof is leaking, and Kai is just trying to play it cool and casual. Kanna is obviously hurt that she is such a third wheel, but Ichika is nice enough (or dense enough) to invite her to stay for lunch. Ichika whips up a weird dish with the food Kanna brought, and in a totally natural way, Kai sweetly pokes fun at Ichika’s lack of culinary prowess. Kai encourages Kanna and Ichika to chat about nothing so that he can film it, and the girls awkwardly talk about their siblings. Kanna’s patience with the cuteness vibe between Kai and Ichika is quickly dwindling, and she starts getting rude, pressing Ichika to answer some uncomfortable questions about her feelings for Kai. Then Kanna switches into full-on bitch-mode and starts asking when Ichika will be leaving Japan and returning to her home country (remember that everyone apparently thinks Ichika is a foreign exchange student). Successfully having rained on everyone’s parade, Kanna leaves, feeling like a total jerk.
On the way home, Kanna is berating herself for being such a crappy, rude, and thoughtless person when she runs into Tetsuou. He reveals that Mio called him and told him that Kanna was going to Kai’s house, and he came in order to help her sort out her feelings. Kanna continues to be a selfish jerk, completely clueless of Tetsuou’s feelings for her (even though it’s not really her fault for not knowing any better since Tetsuou’s lips are sealed on the matter), and she whines to Tetsuou for a long time about how her crush on Kai is one-sided. It’s almost time to call the waaaaaambulance, until Tetsuou makes the mature suggestion that perhaps Kanna should consider confessing to Kai. However, Kanna refuses that reasonable course of action and decides instead that, for the greater good of their social dynamic and the summer movie project, she will just pretend like she doesn’t feel anything at all – aka, she will “act normal”. The rain goes away, a beautiful sunset appears, and things are happy again.
Until…. Later that night, when Tetsuou climbs up to Kai’s second story window. A surprised Kai (who has been moping ever since Kanna left, since he’s now realized that Ichika will eventually have to leave) lets Tetsuou in, and simultaneously Rinon’s super computer has detected a human presence in the house. Ichika goes out to the hall to scope out the scene and overhears Tetsuou explaining to Kai that Kanna is in love with him. Needless to say, Ichika and Kai are both totally shocked at this revelation.
I’ve really hit a wall with show. With each episode, I enjoy the slice-of-life parts more and more – there’s so much that is so *right* with all the little things, and it all adds up to make a great romance series. For example, the animation is perfect for this type of show (and in this episode, the lighting and backgrounds in the outdoor scenes are great!), the BGM is consistent and not over- or under-whelming, and the characters’ expressions and the seiyuus acting work incredibly well together – they’re just subtle enough to come across as completely on point and it makes the characters charming and relatable. Of the high school romcoms that I’ve seen, this one truly takes the cake.
However, I just can’t get past the fact that somehow, somewhere, some way, the fact that Ichika is an alien *should* matter to the story. I know I claimed that I managed to watch the episode in a state of blissful ignorance, but this lack of consistency around the alien thing really, really gets under my skin. Like, ummmm, what’s the freaking point??? Why did they even bother with the alien stuff in the first place? It has absolutely nothing, and I mean *nothing* to do with anything that’s going on. And, no, it makes absolutely no difference in anything at all (at this point) if Remon’s plot for the movie is based on Ichika being an alien, an exchange student, an immigrant, or if she had to move there because of her parent’s work. You can basically substitute the word “alien” for “foreign exchange student with a somewhat questionable visa” and “MIB” for “la migra” and pretend that teletubbies are actually some sort of small dog or monkey that are bred for pets in whatever country Ichika’s from (Hokkaido?). And, I suppose you can substitute any moderately racist stereotype about any immigrant/ethnic group’s behaviors for Kai’s statement about how he would be willing to date an alien girl as long as she didn’t “ooze goo”. Suffice to say, I think that Ichika being an alien is completely superfluous and irrelevant to the overall plot of the series so far.
And about the plot…. I’m getting this sinking feeling that there will, in fact, be a very rushed and spastic attempt to bring it all together at the very end. Like, Kai’s alien cancer (which I had again forgotten about until Notaku Blog reminded me of it, props again to them for jogging my memory) will probably resurface in the last minute of the second to last episode and in the final episode there will be a bunch of drama because he will have to go with Ichika back to her home planet (or she will have to stay here) or something in order to be cured. Seeing that we are about at the half way point, and the last three (or is it four now?) episodes have focused entirely on developing the characters’ social/relationship dynamics, I can’t help but feel that suddenly switching the focus to alien stuff and action will most likely feel unnatural and rushed. It’s a shame too, since a lot of what is so captivating about AnoNatsu is the smooth and easy, listless, and summery feel it has going on. I will say though, I was glad to see the movie thing come back into the story – after watching two straight episodes with nothing but typical boy-girl relationship misunderstandings, it was a relief to have the film around again as a device allowing the characters’ interpersonal dynamics to unfold more naturally. Maybe the movie thing will even serve as something more than that – something like the whole “life imitates art imitates life…” thing. For example, now that the film has the MIB’s chasing after Ichika, will there be MIB’s chasing after her in real life during the next episode? Maybe I’m reading into things too much.
I’m going to admit that I have some beef with Kai’s interior monologues. First off, they just get on my nerves. I would probably punch this guy for being a complete dipshit if he was an acquaintance of mine in real life. But really though, I figured it out watching this episode – Kai’s interior monologues are responsible for making me have such unrealistic expectations for the plot and level of action. Here’s why: Kai is speaking from the future (likely from a time long after all of AnoNatsu’s events have happened), and he hypes things up a whole lot. I mean, he’s going on and on about this being some remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable, life changing, last-boss-defeating, out of the ordinary, crazy summer. On top of that there’s this tone of sadness and regret, like “If only I knew then what I know now”. It really makes it seem (at least to me) like we are dealing with some kind of epic and mind-blowing tragedy. I just realized it today while watching this episode, but I think this is the exact reason why viewers are getting so riled up over this series – because Kai’s voice always narrates over the non-action, promising and assuring us that some crazy shit is just around the corner. I suppose I have to hand it to the seiyuu – that’s pretty good acting! However, the spell broke this week. Kai’s voice was just rambling on dramatically about “If only I had known that my hottie alien girlfriend would leave someday and that all my friends were wrapped up in some complex love-polygon…” The way it came across, it made me unconsciously think to myself, “So, if only I had known, then what?” – then Kai wouldn’t have acted like such a moron? Maybe these idiot kids could’ve just confessed to each other and been accepted or rejected and started moving on with their lives? Maybe Kai could’ve saved the entire universe from total annihilation? I mean, what??? If only he had known then what he knows now, then *what* exactly???
I’m not even going to bother with some of the more obvious issues. Like, why in hell doesn’t anyone say anything about the teletubby? Why is Ichika able to be a perfect yamato-nadeshiko-high-school-big-titty-bombshell, fluently speak Japanese, flawlessly adopt the most subtle of cultural norms, and tutor Kai on every subject taught in school, but is somehow unable to properly prepare such basic and popular Japanese foods? Seriously, don’t most people get their kare raisu seasoning from a packet? And, where is that spaceship of hers, anyways? Hasn’t a park ranger or some priest over at the Shinto shrine in the burbs noticed it by now? And, why does Mio spend all of her free time chilling in her room naked with a large stuffed panda? I doubt that many (or any) of these things will end up getting explained since it seems like typical teenage crushes are AnoNatsu’s priority regarding screen time distribution.
In defense of the characters’ idiocy about relationships, I would like to point out that it’s a common theme in high school romcom anime. I mean, most romance anime wouldn’t exist without it – shows like Kimi ni Todoke and Lovely Complex (and just about any other romance anime I’ve seen) just wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the utter cluelessness of their main characters. Although it can be frustrating, I’ve come to accept this particularly naïve form of nostalgia in anime – I suppose it’s got something to do with the anime/manga writers and creators longing for some imagined past (teenage-dom) where sexual relationships were a lot more cute and sweet and simple than they usually are in the real life of an adult. I suppose I can’t blame them for that. It seems so blatantly unrealistic to me though – I mean, 16-17 year olds living in a house together over summer break? Normal teens would be knocking boots and getting it on like bunny rabbits the second the parental figure left the room. I don’t know anything about teenage sex in Japan, but I do know that teenage sex in anime-land is a-whole-nother ballgame when compared to real life. Apparently, guys in anime-land just sit around fantasizing about boobs and girls and are too embarrassed to actually do anything to actualize those fantasies… Unless you happen to be in ecchi-anime-land, where boys and girls often fall down and boys’ hands *always* land on the main girl’s breasts. Anyways, just accept that the characters have the sexual and relationship intelligence of the average 5-year-old. Just accept it and maybe even try to use it as a springboard for creating your own imaginary past that you never actually had based on nostalgia for some good-old-days that never existed. Without the premise of naiveté, there simply is no show, so just go with it. 🙂
Like I said, I went into this episode with desire to ignore all elements of the plot outside of an unoriginal but well-made high school romance story. However, Remon was back in full effect, incessantly trolling the other characters, and perhaps even trolling me as the viewer. Remon has always been, IMO, the best character of the show. She’s not a moron and she seems to know what is actually going on, but this week, my attitude towards Remon developed a lot. Instead of just seeing her as AnoNatsu’s saving grace and comedic relief, I found myself actually wondering what her deal was. Sure, I had wondered a bit during the previous episodes, but this week was crucial – Why? Why does Remon want to screw with Ichika so badly? Why is she so hell bent on pushing the plot to a critical point? She does everything but come out and tell everyone that Ichika is an alien (even though the crew would probably all say, “Alien? Is that in Hokkaido?”), and she makes Ichika very uncomfortable in the process. What is Remon’s motivation? Why is she so invested in trolling Ichika? What could she possibly be getting out of it all? Remon alone brings this episode’s rating up at least a point, but, although she is an awesome character, I really would like to see someone other than her pull the weight in AnoNatsu every once in a while.
The only real character development that happens in this episode is with Kanna. Sure, Ichika and Kai are getting used to each other and their daily life is quickly stabilizing, but that’s hardly “character development”, it’s just an obvious progression of things over time. We actually get to see something other than the Kai-crush-jealousy-automaton side to Kanna this time around. Kanna finally finally finally (thank god) realizes that just maybe, “he’s just not that into you” and she comes up with a “Plan B” – playing it cool and denying her own feelings. While it’s not the most original plan, it at least shows that Kanna is a real character with thoughts, feelings, and a general awareness and responsiveness to the world around her. I was starting to get worried for a minute (or more like for 4 episodes) that Kanna would just continue to play the “jealous-girl” role throughout the story. It’s likely enough that she will still end up being the jealous-girl stock character, but at least there will be some amount of substance behind it all. Now, if only Tetsuou could only take his own advice and try confessing to the person he likes…
All in all, it was a good episode. However, the ability to suspend one’s own critical faculties definitely improves its quality. Ignoring the details, shrugging off impossible amounts of each character’s idiocy, and judging the show solely as a slice-of-life, have lead me to a place of satisfaction with AnoNatsu. While it may seem rather defeatist to suggest that “giving up” is the only way for a reasonably intelligent person to enjoy this series, the high production values and excellent acting make it easy enough…. As easy as lounging around in the summer with nothing to do but listening to cicadas and watching re-runs. And maybe this is the appropriate approach to AnoNatsu – a relaxing sort of entertainment perfect for brains that have been warped by summer’s unrelenting heat. I’m going to go with this attitude for now, since lowering my expectations will make anything that happens from here on out seem more exciting, but more importantly because this series has honestly charmed me. If nothing else, that teletubby is really cute. 😉
So, has anyone else come to a personal conclusion about AnoNatsu? Do you love it or hate it?
Episode Rating: 7.0/10